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TL;DR – Korean vs North American Beauty Standards

August 19, 2011

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This week’s TL;DR is an epic topic: What is the standard for beauty in Korea and how does it differ from North America, and vice versa? Wow, that’s a doosie of a question…it feels like we should submit this blog for grading once we’re finished with it (if we stay up all night and hand it in on time). Well to begin with, we should mention that these beauty points are what we feel the Korean media emphasizes as beauty, and what our Korean friends might mention in passing conversation, but this does not represent every Korean. It feels like we shouldn’t even have to mention that point, but we’re trying to cut off the “I’M KOREAN AND YOU’RE WRONG” comments from happening. ^^ We can’t cover every point here so we’re going to go with our Top 3.

Pale Complexions vs Tanning

Jersey Shore Tanning

Umm, that's just gross.

It seems to us that Korea has finely tuned the idea of beauty into several traits which are currently trendy, but we have no idea if they were always trendy or if this is a recent thing. The most apparent one is lack of tanning. Anywhere you go in Korea you’ll see people walking around with beautiful parasols, ajumma visors or hats, arm covers, and just about every type of cream comes with a 15+ SPF built into it. The heated debate about why Korean men and woman want to have pale skin falls into two categories. Once being the historical idea: in a nutshell, tanned skin means you are a poor peasant working outdoors and pale skin represents luxury, wealth, and lack of wrinkles. The other argument being that Korean people are trying to look more and more Caucasian, which obviously gets a lot of angry comments from Koreans. We don’t know which side is more correct, but Martina is already Caucasian and she has always hidden from the sun under parasols (even when in Canada) to prevent her skin from instantly burning, so I guess that makes her…a vampire. This seems to really differ from other parts of the world, especially where having a golden tan = going on vacation. The idea of going to a tanning bed is just a horrifying idea to all our Korean friends; even on the beach you can rent pre-set up beach umbrellas to avoid the sun at all costs.

Mono eyelids vs Double eyelids

Gain Mono Eyelid

Gain Doesn't have Double Eyelids, and she's freaking beautiful

Ah, the eyelid. Something that we, as North Americans, have never seemed to notice until we came to Korea. Who knew that tiny piece of skin was SO important to looking beautiful? Having “double eyelids”, or a fold/crease above your eye is a concept majority of North Americans have just taken for granted. In fact, we don’t even have a concrete name for it, but in Korea, it’s 쌍꺼풀 (ssanggeopul). If you’re a celebrity, you probably had surgery done to get it, but there are still some people (like Gain and Rain) that haven’t had it done. If you can’t afford surgery, then you might just go for some Double Eyelid Tape instead. Of course, arguments rage about why this surgery is so popular in Korea, and while many people say it’s to achieve a more Western looking eye, others argue that it’s just for the sake of beauty. We think the real question to be asked here is why having big eyes or a double eyelid is considered to be beautiful? It’s not like Rain is suddenly not good looking because of his monolid, he just looks distinctly Asian and we don’t think that there is anything wrong with that.

The V-Line Face

V Line Face Drink

Putting two bottles by your face, or in your stomach, will not change your face.

The concept of the “v-line” jaw being a coveted beauty trait makes us…uncomfortable. From a North American perspective, you’re either born with a certain jaw shape or you’re not. You’re face is round, oval, heart, triangle, square, rectangular and so on. Really good hairdressers can tell what style will suit you based just on your face shape and you can look at many celebrities (who all have different types of face shapes) for inspiration. In Korea, not so much. We have never seen anybody praised for having a cute, round face or a striking heart shaped face. It’s literally the “v-line” jaw bone or it’s not reported. The reason why this makes us so uncomfortable is because there is plastic surgery readily available if you want to shave down your jaw bone. We see ads on the subway as if it’s totally an everyday event to change your entire jaw structure. The other reason reports on the epic v-line makes us uncomfortable is because majority of those photos taken by celebs are angled in a oh-so-clever fashion to create the illusion of a “v-line”, but in this illusion, tons of products are sold to help “trim” your jaw and face fat. Sorry Korea, we just don’t believe that a plastic face roller can change my face size. With that idea, the vast amount of time I spend sleeping on one side of my face should have horribly distorted my face by now.

In conclusion Professor Internet, it seems to us that growing up in a multi-cultural society (anywhere in the world) has a huge effect on what one thinks is beautiful. We feel like this is the most important thing to remember when comparing beautify standards of Korea to North America. As a Canadian from Toronto, it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint what an “ideal” Canadian looking woman would look like, since we grew up with so many different face shapes, skin tones, hair types, hair colours, body sizes, and eye colours.

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TL;DR – Korean vs North American Beauty Standards

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  1. LOL…..That´s OBAMA.
    WTF? Chin roller? You´re just kidding, right? (it reminds me like Jim Carrey in a movie called
    Me,Myself & Irene wants to have a big chin)

    Really strange, “white” people like tanning and making their skin “brown”, Korean don´t like tanning and would like to make their skin “white”….weird, weird, definitely weird.

    Actually, when I´m watching K-Dramas or K-POP videos I don´t pay attention to the size of faces or double eyelids at all…you just like the person or you don´t.

    5 years ago
  2. LOL…..That´s OBAMA.
    WTF? Chin roller? You´re just kidding, right? (it reminds me like Jim Carrey in a movie called
    Me,Myself & Irene wants to have a big chin)

    Really strange, “white” people like tanning and making their skin “brown”, Korean don´t like tanning and would like to make their skin “white”….weird, weird, definitely weird.

    Actually, when I´m watching K-Dramas or K-POP videos I don´t pay attention to the size of faces or double eyelids at all…you just like the person or you don´t.

    5 years ago
  3. I’m pretty much a fob in Australia and the only thing from the list that I care is the double eyelids and that’s because it’s so hard to put make-up with mono eyelids.

    5 years ago
  4. 1. Any guy that has one type is an idiot. The four girls in miss A are all distinctly different, yet each stunning in their own unique way.

    All of us goths grow up to be vampires you know.

    5 years ago
  5. ah la la…no matter how hard I try, I’m simply NOT able to tell if someone has a mono or double eyelid LOL! nooo comment

    5 years ago
  6. “With that idea, the vast amount of time I spend sleeping on one side
    of my face should have horribly distorted my face by now.”
    -on that note, i even heard that Korean parents make their babies sleep on one side of their face(well of course alternate sides) to probably achieve that “v-line jaw”?(while their bones are still growing)

    5 years ago
    • don’t know where you heard that from, but Koreans adore children and would not do anything do compromise even a slight bit of their health. I’ve never seen Korean adults obsess over their baby’s looks and do something do change it.

      5 years ago
  7. I’m Chinese, and my mom always told me to sleep on one side of my face or the other (ie not facing the ceiling), I’m guessing so that I could get more of a v-line shaped face. Was this just my mom or do other asian moms tell their children this too?? XD

    5 years ago
    • Same here! My parents are from Taiwan. My mom says when i was a baby, she made sure i slept on one side or the other. and now she says the shape of my head is beautiful bc it’s not flat on the back like hers or my dad’s xD loll. i guess it’s an asian thing ahaha

      5 years ago
    • it’s the same, we’re supposed to sleep facing down  and your face on one side. I think it’s not about achieving a v line shape but my mom would say so the back of your head won’t be flat. (???) i don’t know if it’s true.

      5 years ago
    • my mom never told me to do that, I think she actually told me that it’s healthier to sleep normally (face the ceiling)

      5 years ago
    • I think other asian moms tell their children that too. Because a Korean mother told me that they DO do that ;)

      5 years ago
      • Haha yea, I’m glad I’m not the only one! I saw your post right after I submitted mine lol xD

        5 years ago
  8. I didn’t even notice the “V-shape” face in the image because I was too excited to see that it’s an ad for a tea I drank a lot during my visit. xD

    I totally started dancing when you guys did during “Baby Got Back.” However… *puts on a shutter-shade monocle* The line after “sprung” is “wanna pull out tough ’cause you noticed that butt was stuffed.”

    What do you guys think is a desired hairstyle/hair type for Koreans? I mean, yes, we see a lot of straight, jet black or dark brown hair, but a lot of women complimented and touched my spiraly curls saying how they loved/wanted the style.

    5 years ago
  9. Yay for paleness!!! Tan just equals tacky. I try so hard to be pale in Florida, could use some of those Korean skin products. SPF 15 just doesn’t cut it here. 

    5 years ago
  10. I guess then its really difficult to be found pretty or beautiful in SK if youre dark colored by nature.

    5 years ago
  11. I think it’s all over Asia, not just in Korea. My Filipino friend just had her eyelids done. I’m of Chinese – Filipino ancestry and I have small eyes and my mom would always tell me to have that double eyelid surgery done because of some health benefits (???). I’ve never done it. I’m happy with my eyes.

    5 years ago
  12. I don’t know if you guys have seen this, but it some-what relates to the topic. http://www.mediadump.com/hosted-id167-average-faces-from-around-the-world.html
    There’s no Canada though :c

    5 years ago
    • We’re (French and English descendents) bunched under “White American” I suppose *shrugs*

      5 years ago
    • We’re (French and English descendents) bunched under “White American” I suppose *shrugs*

      5 years ago
    • We’re (French and English descendents) bunched under “White American” I suppose *shrugs*

      5 years ago
    • We’re (French and English descendents) bunched under “White American” I suppose *shrugs*

      5 years ago
  13. Now, I understand why my relatives had that reaction. I live in Canada (but I’m Southeast Asian); I go out under the sun all the time not really concerning myself with that fact that I will get a tan. When I went back to Asia for a visit, the first thing my relatives said was “oh! you’re so dark” and then they gave me a year supply of gluthatione (it’s a capsule asians take to make their skin lighter – actually, that’s the side effect of the meds). So, while I was there, I was going out in the sun WITHOUT an umbrella and they would give me funny looks, it’s like I’ve committed a crime. I still took the glutha though to give them peace of mind so I became really really pale like zombie pale so when I got back to Nova Scotia, the first thing I did was go to the beach. :P.

    5 years ago
    • I thought gluthatione was ineffective when taken orally? What dosage were those pills? O_O

      5 years ago
    • I thought gluthatione was ineffective when taken orally? What dosage were those pills? O_O

      5 years ago
      • 1500 mg. but i am pale to begin with. I hardly tan or it takes a while for me to tan. But mom thinks I’m not as pale as one should be. Go figure. I will join Martina’s vampire club as well.

        5 years ago
        • LOL. eh, that’s family I guess. they can be pretty ridiculous =/

          5 years ago
  14. gosh! its very difficult to be considered beautiful in Korea..  
    no wonder plastic surgery is a booming industry in that country =(

    5 years ago
  15. I can totally get the tanning thing, ’cause I really don’t understand pressing in the sun for hours just to be brown and with the consequence of getting more wrinkles…

    Me and Martina can start a vampire club, I always stay away from the sun to avoid burning!! ^______~

    5 years ago
    • I´m in :)
      I don´t like sunbathing at all…even though I was born in a summer, but maybe because my name literally means “the spring celebrator” and as spring has temperate weather so I don´t like too hot and too cold weather also (but I love whet it is snowing).

      5 years ago
    • YAY!!! My friends used to make fun of me, but with my new vampire club, who’s laughing now!? BUUwaah..BUWahhhaa, BUWAHAHAHAHAHAA!!!!

      5 years ago
      • Oh need to join that club too, I don’t like the sun cause it burns my skin, plus the heat is just not for me…

        5 years ago
  16. I can totally get the tanning thing, ’cause I really don’t understand pressing in the sun for hours just to be brown and with the consequence of getting more wrinkles…

    Me and Martina can start a vampire club, I always stay away from the sun to avoid burning!! ^______~

    5 years ago
  17. I have double eyelids and I didn’t even know what double eyelids were until i got into kpop.

    5 years ago
    • I have had to check it now what the double eyelids are and I have got it as majority of Europeans…it is common feature of Caucasian people, right?

      5 years ago
  18. I have double eyelids and I didn’t even know what double eyelids were until i got into kpop.

    5 years ago
  19. what about Hyori she’s pretty tan and she was considered Korea’s beauty queen? so yeah i’m a little confused

    5 years ago
  20. what about Hyori she’s pretty tan and she was considered Korea’s beauty queen? so yeah i’m a little confused

    5 years ago
    • Lee Hyori was not really tan when she debuted as a member of Fin K.L. And FYI she became the sexy queen of Korea not because of her skin color but because of her music and Korean people loves her personality and her attitude. 

      5 years ago
      • what i meant was like lets say girls put her as her role model and wanted to be like her so that kinda comes across like since i want to be like her im going to forget about being pale skinned and get a somewhat tan look like Hyori you know what i mean?

        5 years ago
  21.  That is why they made the disclaimer that all their opinions may not be 100%. There will be exceptions to the rules!

    5 years ago
  22. It still surprises me about the “eyelid surgery”.I think that distinct eyelid is pretty and EXOTIC!

    5 years ago
  23. It still surprises me about the “eyelid surgery”.I think that distinct eyelid is pretty and EXOTIC!

    5 years ago
  24. It still surprises me about the “eyelid surgery”.I think that distinct eyelid is pretty and EXOTIC!

    5 years ago
  25. It still surprises me about the “eyelid surgery”.I think that distinct eyelid is pretty and EXOTIC!

    5 years ago
  26. It still surprises me about the “eyelid surgery”.I think that distinct eyelid is pretty and EXOTIC!

    5 years ago
  27. It still surprises me about the “eyelid surgery”.I think that distinct eyelid is pretty and EXOTIC!

    5 years ago
  28. It still surprises me about the “eyelid surgery”.I think that distinct eyelid is pretty and EXOTIC!

    5 years ago
  29. It still surprises me about the “eyelid surgery”.I think that distinct eyelid is pretty and EXOTIC!

    5 years ago
  30. It still surprises me about the “eyelid surgery”.I think that distinct eyelid is pretty and EXOTIC!

    5 years ago
  31. And I think I’ve just found the answer to why my (Korean) boyfriend wears long sleeves and long pants in the summer and likes his skin so pale, hah. The whole concept of having one ideal look is kinda weird to me, but I suppose, in a less multicultural place like Korea it makes sense.

    5 years ago
  32. well, every culture has their own beauty
    in arab countries they like light skinned girls that are fuller, not too skinny. 
    also in india and pakistan they like lighter skinned girls. 
    it seems to be a common trait across Asia   

    haha, Obama. that kid would probably get his ass kicked for sho.

    5 years ago
  33. well, every culture has their own beauty
    in arab countries they like light skinned girls that are fuller, not too skinny. 
    also in india and pakistan they like lighter skinned girls. 
    it seems to be a common trait across Asia   

    haha, Obama. that kid would probably get his ass kicked for sho.

    5 years ago
  34. I’m uber pale, have double eyelids and I guess my jaw is v-shaped…
    I’ve never really considered these accomplishments until now :D

    5 years ago
  35. I’m uber pale, have double eyelids and I guess my jaw is v-shaped…
    I’ve never really considered these accomplishments until now :D

    5 years ago
    • I think that at first a person should like her/him-self the way she/he is and then it´s not important what others say to you.

      5 years ago
    • I think that at first a person should like her/him-self the way she/he is and then it´s not important what others say to you.

      5 years ago
  36. Ubersexual 8DD
    I just can’t get that word out of my mind XD It left an everlasting impression XD

    5 years ago
  37. Ubersexual 8DD
    I just can’t get that word out of my mind XD It left an everlasting impression XD

    5 years ago
  38. Wow.. That’s scary! The PS ads only can influence people mind! Never knew pale skin, double eyelids and v jawline such important to them. 

    5 years ago
  39. awesome

    5 years ago
  40. I knew it that Martina was a vampire!!! kkkkkkkkk

    5 years ago